Shrimp Paste Sugar Cane Skewers (Chao Tom)
Sugar cane shrimp skewer or Chao Tom is a traditional Vietnamese appetizer. It is typically served in dinner banquets at Asian weddings and other special occasions and also one of the many offerings at Dim Sum. You can eat them directly as finger foods, or remove the shrimp from the skewer and wrap it in lettuce and dip with a Vietnamese fish sauce dipping sauce.
Some people eat the shrimp and toss the sugar cane. Others, like myself, like to suck on the sugar cane after the shrimp. I love the sweetness of the sugar cane chasing down the savoriness of the shrimp.
To make the traditional recipe, pork paste or Gio Song is added to ground shrimp. The pork paste adds flavor and moisture to the shrimp paste. It also mellows out the shrimpiness of the dish, which I didn't think I needed or wanted but believe me, there is such a thing as too much shrimp flavor. I highly recommend adding the pork paste if you can find it. I circled my Asian supermarket a couple of time before I finally finding the pork paste in the frozen food section.
For the below recipe, I deep fried my sugar cane shrimp two ways. The first way was a traditional deep fry without any bread crumb coating. The second way, I coated the shrimp with panko. The lovely crispy exterior from the panko was outstanding and I prefer the bread coating much more.
This appetizer is a great way to fancy up any dinner party. The skewers can be assembled ahead of time and fried before serving.
Sugar Cane Shrimp Recipe
Makes 15-18 skewers
1 lb ground headless and deveined shrimp
3 oz pork paste (Gio Song, usually in the frozen food section of Asian markets)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 scallions (minced)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon pork stock powder
1 cup panko bread crumbs (optional)
8 short fresh sugar canes or 1 12oz canned sugar canes (quartered or halved)
In a medium size bowl, combine the ground shrimp, pork paste, fish sauce, whites of the scallions, sugar, black pepper and pork stock powder. Marinade for at least 15 minutes.
Coat your hands with vegetable oil to prevent sticking and wrap about 1-2 tablespoons of the shrimp paste around the sugar cane sticks.
Optional: Roll each skewers in panko bread crumbs and shake off excess.
Deep fry the shrimp skewers in batches at 325 degree Fahrenheit for 2-3 minutes. The skewers are done when it floats to the top. For a healthy version, you can steam the shrimp skewers and lightly grill just serving.
In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine the green part of the scallions and 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil. Microwave for 30 seconds. Spread the scallion oil on top of the fried shrimp skewers.
Serve as is or serve with a lettuce alongside Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce.